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Abbey, Bath, England
Steve Cadman and used under license
Worshipper: Chris Churchcrawler.
of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Bath, England.
of England, Diocese
of Bath and Wells.
Bath Abbey is a magnificent Perpendicular Gothic affront to
the Georgian architecture of Bath! Standing on the site of a
vastly larger Norman abbey, the present church dates from the
early 16th century and has had many restorations since then.
The lovely fan vaulting is mostly Victorian. Also the tower
is a rectangular shape to allow for the narrow transepts. However,
the crowning glory of the building are the huge clerestory windows
and the flying buttresses.
It is a major tourist attraction as well as a parish church
that draws in large gathered congregations. They have a long
tradition of producing exceptional music, encompassing the world-renown
Abbey Choir; organ recitals; and training, concerts and performance
workshops for local schoolchildren. Holy communion is celebrated,
and morning and evening prayer read, throughout the week. On
Sundays, in addition to holy communion and an informal service,
choral matins and evensong are sung.
Bath, in southwestern England not far from Bristol, was established
in AD43 as a Roman spa, but the curative properties of its warm
mineral springs may have been known before then. It became increasingly
popular as a spa town during the Georgian era (1714-1830) and
much of the city's architecture dates from then. Today Bath
has it all: Roman baths, Georgian architecture, Victorian shopping
mall, several public schools and a brand new shopping area.
No names or information given.
The date & time:
14 June 2012, 5.30pm.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The abbey church was full of visitors at 4.45 when the choristers
started rehearsing. I had to nip out to Marks & Sparks (as
we call Marks & Spencer, our local luxury food and clothing
shoppe) to visit the loo. However, by the time I arrived back,
the crowd had been reduced to only 50 or so sitting toward the
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The place was swimming with tourists, and even some who had
cunningly disguised themselves as worshipers were snapping their
cameras at everything in sight. It was like being at a press
conference! The sidespeople were friendly.
Was your pew comfortable?
Quite comfortable for a Victorian Gothic pew!
How would you describe the pre-service
Quite busy. The tourists were snapping away; some were reverently
lighting candles. The organist was playing quietly, in the middle
of which an old lady's mobile kicked off very loudly. Did she
switch it off and put it away? No, she didn't. She answered
it!! A lady next to her gave her an extremely evil look, but
this didn't deter her. The organist continued though regardless!
Looking around me, I saw that many of the congregation looked
like models for M&S whilst I sat in my scruffy rugby top
What were the exact opening words of the
"Welcome to this service of Choral Evensong!"
What books did the congregation use during the
The Book of Common Prayer and Hymns Ancient and
Very Ancient (sorry, Modern).
What musical instruments
The abbey's two organs: a four-stop continuo organ, an opus
of Kenneth Tickell & Company Ltd of Northampton installed
in 1999; and the great organ, a 1997 reconstruction by Klais
Orgelbau of Bonn, Germany, of the abbey's 1895 Norman and Beard
instrument. The continuo organ was used to accompany the choir,
and for the hymns the organist progressed on to the large four
manual abbey organ, which was a real treat. However, I loved
the continuo and was dying to ask him to let me play it!
Did anything distract
Yes how many people were carrying Marks & Spencer
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
This was cathedral style worship in traditional low church Prayer
Book style. Not a whiff of incense! The service seemed to be
themed around Orlando Gibbons very appropriate given
when the church was built. The readings were from the Book of
Job not exactly the most cheerful book of the Bible.
Exactly how long was the
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The music, without a doubt. Orlando Gibbons has a timeless essence
about him that never seems to date. The choir boys did very
well. They sang in unison, but I provided the bass!
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Some of the tourists whose cameras were peeping out of bags
and pockets like elephant trunks. Also I'm not Tory or public
school and this service just had something of both about
it. Also, curious about the allegiance to Marks & Spencer,
which symbolises the very essence of middle classness. I'm a
working class lad who had the good fortune to be brought up
in a choral tradition.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Not a lot. Cathedral congregations aren't about mixing and very
much about self. Maybe that is why it appeals to the Marks &
Sparks brigade and why cathedral congregations appear to be
How would you describe the after-service
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 For the music. And the style of worship is one that
I very much like. It would be nice to extend it to others outside
the M&S bracket. Also, a sign pointing the way to the loo
would be useful.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes it did, especially the music, in its haunting and somewhat
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Orlando Gibbons. I did wonder whether Orlando would have popped
over to M&S for a new top.
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